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ABW: Tech Problems!

Tech problems! This time, the computer decided to act odd and I had to use my bevvy of programs to eradicate the problem.

Basically, I was spending the past few days looking like this:

Whyyyyyyy? How did this happen?

Whyyyyyyy? How did this happen?

That basically means no ABW this month because I have to put all my brainpower in making sure my computer doesn’t go kaput. It won’t, it just wants to for some mysterious reason.

Instead, here is this cute French cat video! “Le Tableau” (For non-Francophones: There are hardcoded English subtitles)

Alright, everyone. Sorry for the quiet, there’s been a lot going on such as new tablet, playing Yandere Simulator and other stuff. That and in porting data from old tablet to new tablet, the data got corrupted so that means this post is a remake. Either way, it’s a good thing I shot video.

Earlier in April, I had learned about Sabbat Box  and contacted them about a review, here it is now!

After answering pretty basic questions about what materials I would prefer more, what symbols I lean to more, things of that nature, I got automatic emails of when my materials would be shipped out. I really liked how timely the emails are so you don’t forget anything. Also, you’re given tracking so you can watch your package get shipped and prepare for its arrival. I missed delivery so I was off a few days but after a couple days, I got an email from Sabbat Box asking if I ever got the box. It was picked up so everything was fine. I did an unboxing vid but then that derped because I’m not good with video, ha! But I did another one right after (well irritated, because I just did all that work beforehand). This video is open via Google Docs and via BW FB Fan page (I don’t really like youtube and didn’t feel like fighting with WordPress about video hosting.)  Wait, wait. I think I can go with Vimeo. Yeaaaaah, let’s do that.

The products are really nice, I still use the incense and the candle is long gone, it really lasts a while! The holder is really nice…especially since it turns out I left my old one in storage a while back. I still haven’t used the oil for anything, but it does smell wonderful still. The tea is still very much in use, it’s nice to have when having something really sweet because it is a bitter taste and green tea is meant to be had with sweet things. However, I did research since the name of the tea brand is Blackthorn Hoodoo Blends. While the tea is nice, I really would rather a Black owned business if I’m going continue buying something that has “hoodoo” in the name since it is originally an Afro-Caribbean tradition and already there’s such limited representation as it stands.

The book is pretty nice, but it sadly can’t keep my attention. It’s not that the book sucks but I’m well past beginner stage, it’s like getting an alphabet book when I already am reading Tales of the Genji. I think I’ll give it away to a friend or something.

As for the Sabbat Box prices, they’re a bit steep but definitely worth it. The smallest plan is Sabbat to Sabbat at $39.95, which includes the $7.95 shipping. The price may look alarming for those on a budget but for what you get, it seems decent. However, while the pricing should be in the 30s, it would possibly be nicer if it were around $28-32/box. Pagan products have a tendency of being pricey so it would be nice if they could pull the price down just a bit.

All in all, I really think that this Sabbat Box is really nice. It isn’t for everyone but that is ok. It’s better for those who are at least intermediate (remember, this isn’t a spell-in-a-box) and have some extra scratch to put a new mix into their practice and find something new. Plus the customer service is really, really good! Very professional.

Next week is Ask Black Witch. Send in your questions! Remember, good questions are appreciated, bad questions are eviscerated, send them in!

Over-Exposed

I have basically spent this whole past week just forever in my feelings. Nothing but irritated and pissed. It’s one thing to have you city make national news, it’s definitely different when the neighborhood you were brought up in is the reason the city is basically on lockdown. And why morons would stop talking like they know how it is in Sandtown when they’re going off info they learned from HBO and reports written by people who are also not from Baltimore. Yes, reading relatively objective reports about the plight here is nice but your 20 minute read is not going to trump my personal experience, no matter how much you want it to. I was born and raised there. You could got to an Ivy, take a bunch of classes, get a degree and you’ll still have no idea compared to my actual, lived experience. That is just how it is. Baltimore is a whole lot more than Old Bay and Hon bullsh*t. That’s not even really Baltimore, that’s a White-washed, gentrified view of Baltimore because they don’t like that Baltimore is 64% Black and only 12% White. With effort from the Mayor(s, plural because Dixon was bad, O’Malley was awful, we haven’t had many good Mayors that actually care about Baltimoreans more than yuppie outsiders), there has been a healthy move to Whiten up Baltimore as much as possible.

I think the only White person that has been interacting with Baltimore and actually was not a douche about all that has been happening is the Manager for the O’s and why he closed the game to the public:

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He gets it. He wasn’t being a douche, he was comfortably understanding by saying that this is beyond baseball and that he’s not going to say more than that because he has no way to relate to the experience of the people rioting and protesting. See? He made a comment that wasn’t disrespectful, agitating, exploiting, or White-Saviorist. It is ok to say, “Look, I’ve no bones in the game, all I know is that this is a big problem and that’s for sure. Baseball is just a game, this is a burst of a bunch of problems.”

Basically, this Baltimore club song is basically how I’ve been feeling all this week

This is more accurate to Baltimorean culture. We’re not really into outsiders telling our tales and speaking for us. At all. We don’t like exploiters, people who don’t genuinely care and just are talking about Baltimore because they’re tired of talking about Ferguson or to look like they’re up on current events. Everyone who is not from Baltimore wants to do a think piece about Baltimore, a city they have zip idea about. If all you knew about Baltimore was basically stuff that starred White people (or, if it was negative, Black people) such as The Wire, Hairspray and Old Bay, then maaaaaaaaybe you should just go back to watching Game of Thrones or something.

Everyone has been getting on my nerves, especially non-local media. I haven’t bothered to look at CNN, FOX News (how did you manage to come to Sandtown and not get your media truck firebombed? Not even catch a rock to the temple. Or a cracked camera?), even Wild Hunt – who asked me for my take – I’ll touch on that in a minute – tried to get in on the calamity as if they’re New York Times or they actually care. Even us Baltimoreans know we’re just activist groups heat of the week, flavor of the day. I haven’t even looked at The Root, which is a Black publication that usually is pretty on the level about things but again, I’m sensitive because as I said before, I’m from that neighborhood so I take it very straight to heart. Like, Mondawmin Mall? I grew up near that mall, my paternal grandfather’s house would have only been maybe 5 or 6 doors away from where the rioters started to break apart and scatter. That mall also started to gentrify a little, which served in part to getting its windows dropped. Remember, we don’t like exploiters. I’m pretty sure they’re clear with that now and if not, Baltimoreans are very good at strong reminders.

The only media people that contacted me was just Wild Hunt. Merely because I am in Baltimore, I’m close enough to the destruction. The person contacting didn’t even know (how, I don’t know because I made it very clear that I am more than just a Baltimorean but also from that neighborhood in the last post), that I am a native Baltimore and from the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood and gave me among the smaller snippets whereas some random person in bum-f*ck Maryland gets a whole paragraph cited and another person in New Jersey. I am probably the only Black person (aside from a quip from Ray Lewis) that was even mentioned in the article. Dude, the writer even wanted to include my MLK quote with snarky part to White liberals, the only reason why I’d post the quote interestingly edited out (I wonder why…oh wait, MLK quotes attract White folks like metal to magnets!) and I had to get a bit snippy to get it out. I told her to mention that I wrote about Whitewashing and gentrification. That didn’t make it to the final cut. It was just labeled “impassionate” (nice word/code for “angry”). I’m actually from here but I get among the least mention. And Wild Hunt doesn’t really try to be that “Oh, here are non-Pagan current events”. Maybe they should try to stick with more Pagan life stuff. The only reason why I agreed was because it isn’t like the writer was going to try hard to find someone else who was Black and from Baltimore…or from Baltimore…or possibly even Black. Now, it isn’t that any Black person can automatically talk about what happened in Baltimore (I mean, Don Lemon should have proved that), but at least there would be a higher likelihood of the person saying “Institutionalize racism” in opposed to saying the super soft “Ohhhh, those pooooooor Black people being murdered. Gives me a sad”.

And speaking of media inaccurately depicting Baltimore, how about that low key Whitewashing between “peaceful protester” and “rioter”. This is what the City Paper posted:

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This is one of many, maaaaaaaaaany times where when you would see people talk about “peaceful protesters” they usually would pan to crowds mixed with White folks…or just pan to the White person in the crowd just standing there amongst the Black folks. But if they’re trashing cop cars and wrecking stuff, it’s All Black Everything. Quick tip: Stop centering White people to make any movement “relevant” or worth caring about. Minorities get edged out of their own movements all the time, it really isn’t fair. This movement isn’t about them. At all. If you have to see a White person somewhere in there to justify a movement, then that’s pretty bigoted. They’re not affected at all by racially charged murders. It’s nice they care but no one needs to put them at the forefront to validate a movement and to depict a “peaceful protester”, that is certain. That is sneakily dehumanizing the Black protesters as barbaric unless there is a White person to symbolize order when really there were definitely White looters. They can be just as bad if not worse because they’re not acting out from being oppressed for decades, just taking an opportunity because they figured even if they hit a ton of stores, media will just show a news reel of a Black folks doing it instead.

This article in the City Paper, which is a surprise for me because CP doesn’t tend to reflect the city it represent but even a broken clock is right twice a day, written by Helena Hicks, titled “Helena Hicks Talks about Institutional Neglect in Freddie’s Gray Neighborhood” accurately depicts the problems in Sandtown-Winchester. I strongly agree with this elder, who also participated in the 1955 sit-in at Read’s drug store in Baltimore as a college student, I recommend reading because as I have said this whole time, to best understand how things are, ask someone who actually is from the area. And the most striking part is that, despite Hicks and I come from two different generations, we have many of the same complaints.

“Sandtown-Winchester has just been left to its own devices all these years, and the devices unfortunately have been destructive ones.”

Anyone from there would tell you this. It’s nicknamed “Crazytown” for a reason. It practically the wild west there. A prison without bars, a concentration camp without electric fences.

“[Since the 40s] You had the gangs starting, you had the murders, you had a drug cartel. There’s never been any justice for people who have committed murders there. As for the Western District police station, it was well known you buy those cops off for $5. It’s had a history of violence, and violence over drugs, since the 1940s.”

Heeeeey, didn’t I say in my last piece I remember drugs being sold on the steps of the Western District police station? Thought I was exaggerating, huh? This, everyone, is the reason why I absolutely abhor the drug trade in all forms, all who participate in it and why I have a therapist. And PTSD. And why the current drug laws gives me the shakes, they’re growing so soft. It was pretty bad there. Still is. What everyone saw on Monday is only an iota of what I saw growing up.

“In the years since, virtually no resources have ever been put into the neighborhood, and it became a drug neighborhood. My sister, Lillian Jones, fought to have something different for the kids in those projects, and the Lillian S. Jones Recreation Center there is named for her. But she died, and the center just fell apart.”

I wasn’t raised in the projects, but I was raised across the street from them on the 1500 block of N. Mount St. I can attest to how bad it got. It was swarmed in drugs and, in turn, cyclical problems such as violence. And anything that has any strain of good in it doesn’t last long. Ever. I remember when the rec. centers got closed. I remember Central Rosemont, which got replaced by PAL, a recreation program that the police thought up (and failed), and then got shut down completely. My mom helped create the protests against City Hall about the shutting down of rec centers, which helped extended the life for a while until the City just stopped caring and did what it wanted.

“The city has consistently done nothing to help this area.”

Didn’t I just say that?

“There is no active drug rehabilitation program. You have nothing in terms of education, nothing to build self pride or desire to rise above the situation there.”

My mom did the smart thing and moved my sister and I out there when we were in our pre-teen. For me, I have a burning hatred of the people who made Sandtown such a terrible place with the strength of a million suns, so that has convinced me to never put myself back there. I just didn’t (and still don’t) want to go back there. I built self-pride in how smart I am, and that was tough in and of itself. That’s why I’m so cocky about my intelligence. And with a very, very, very obscenely low bullsh*t threshhold, as my steady readers have probably noticed. Especially from people who were raised from a higher social station than I was.

“You don’t have any job training programs. People don’t finish school, they don’t make any money, they have nothing to do with their time. Torn-down houses. No food stores. Vacant houses. Open drug markets. 24 hours a day.”

Even the old Stop, Shop, and Save that I grew up with, the only actual market in the area, just closed recently, if Google Maps showed me correctly. Actually, Google Maps has not even been behind my house on the teeny street since 2008. Lolz. Even Google doesn’t want to know.

“We set up child day care in Sandtown. It ran well for a while, and then we lost funding and got kicked out. Nothing has worked because the city won’t invest permanently in that neighborhood. It once had responsible citizens, and it still does, but you don’t have enough of them and they have no direction and no City Hall support.”

Yeap, that sounds about right. If it’s a good thing for Sandtown, the plug will get pulled on it faster than fast.

“There was the Empowerment Zone in the 1990s, and then it dissipated. The developers got a hold of that. It was all about how they could use the neighborhood and the money that was coming in on federal grants to supposedly help that area. The federal grant money dried up; it never did a whole lot of good anyway.”

I was raised in the 90s. Basically, people got greedy. Tried to gentrify Sandtown a little (basically go, “Let’s move in White people, that’s the only way we think a neighborhood is worth saving!”), and something on the calculator must have said, “You’re going to have a lot of dead White people, just leave it alone.” That and greedy people are greedy. The money was seen to help the area but the people in charge most likely saw the money as a free payday.

“The police have been a part of the problem and not the solution in that area since I was a child. Former Mayor Martin O’Malley didn’t help. He started the ‘zero tolerance’ policy, so half of the people who were hanging around got locked up….Plus, they put the bottom of the barrel down [in Sandtown]. Not good teachers, not good police – and if they get anybody good down there, they don’t last.

Bolding is mine. I have been telling people this time and time again: There’s no room for good guys down there. The reason why the cops are so ruthless down there is because the people they have to get are more ruthless than them. Even though in the different neighborhood, Oliver, the police didn’t murder the Dawson family. Here in Sandtown, things are downright atrocious, there’s no room to play by the rules. Absolutely none. If there were, they would quickly be called “loopholes”. It’s not fair to the people caught in between but that’s simply just how it is. And how it will be, none of this media circus will affect a thing, sadly. Trust me on that. It’s just a heinous cat and mouse game.

“It’s possibly to do something constructive in Sandtown-Winchester, but you’ve got to get City Hall to understand the mess they’ve made, take responsibility for it, and start planning to go in another direction….Nobody is looking at how we got here and what do we need to do to turn it in a different direction. They just concentrate knee-jerk reactions to whatever’s happening in the present.”

Like a riot. A loud one at that. Classic move of City Hall. Media is already giving them a heaping of help by milking this “Black Lives Matter” stuff in hopes for a Pulitzer or to look progressive. Just focus on the now, not the future and definitely not the past.

“Marches won’t do it.”

Are you me? Ye gods, it sounds like something I would say.

“I don’t have any faith in these ministers leading things. They’ve been there all this time and haven’t done anything. They just want a platform. You need to understand the history.”

Sounds nearly like me.

“There are people who know what’s going on and could be asked for help. But City Hall is not going to ask for that. [Mayor] Stephanie Rawlings-Blake doesn’t think anybody over 50 knows anything that she can use.”

The mayor also has a tendency to think the same of folks who can’t pass a paper bag test. A White person tell her that she’s on fire, she’d run for the fire extinguisher. A Black person tell her she’s on fire, she’d just remark, “The weatherman said we’d have summer temperatures today. You just are confused.”

“They think nobody knows anything but them, and they have the answers and they’re going to resolve it.”

Their solution: A neighborhood is only worth saving if there are White people living in it. Time to gentrify! Then we’ll pump in much and desperately needed resources.

“And they’re not. It’s just going to get worse and worse.”

Basically what I’ve been saying.

“History repeats itself, and we’re about to repeat something very bad if we don’t get in there and do something fast.”

Yes, it can get worse than this. Way worse.

“I’ve tried to pass the baton, but many young people don’t see any future. And I understand why they don’t see it: They don’t get many examples of good things that are happening, so they don’t believe that it’s possible….I think there is some hope. But it’s getting harder and harder to find people who believe that and it’s been harder and harder to point out where there is some reason to hope.”

Sounds about right. The future of Sandtown is pretty bleak. And I’ve seen little to convince me that it will get better for the residents of Sandtown ever. That’s the super sad part. It would only be possible if people actually cared and tried to break the cyclical damage and hurt there. Buuuuuut that’s not happening for a while. Once the cameras are off of Penn-North, and the rest of Sandtown, it’s back to business as usual.

I got crappy questions so I figured I wouldn’t bother answering them. Especially since apparently there’s been protests in my city, Baltimore, all this week and Saturday was a big mess where the protests started out peaceful for hours and then ended up raucous.

I was downtown on Saturday because I’m helping out at a store in Federal Hill but got dismissed early because of the protests since I knew they would attempt to disrupt traffic. They did succeed in that but I was already home watching stuff from a live stream on a local news site. I did notice the 3 helicopters, two police, one news, hovering over my area (I live relatively close to downtown, mainly a 20-30 minute walk) and at least two police jeeps driving towards downtown all at the exact same time as I was getting to my home. That and I saw an unhitched storage trailer with Montgomery County Police’s logo and signage on it while passing through the Inner Harbor by Circulator bus, that’s a pretty far away county.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and whinge the usual “Reminder: Please don’t kill Black people” or say “Oh, look [random Black person] has died! How many more will happen?!” because I’m not Tumblr and I’m not a White activist – two groups who have a reaaaaaally strong tendency to be very vocal about dead Black people to the point of passing around ToD (Time of Death) pictures like they’re trading cards. Emphasis on the dead because they certainly don’t do much about living ones besides thieve and pillage their cultures for fun and try to eject them out of their neighborhoods via aggressive and passive gentrification.

For example, LED Baltimore and I tend to bump heads because they like to portray Whiteness as baseline of art on their massive, electric billboard but Baltimore is a 64% Black city (with a 12% White population) and a creative one as well. This person would reason that somehow, despite the 64% Black population, they have the ever hardest time finding a Black photographer or visual artist that makes art. And an even harder time finding people who would paint or picture Black subjects because apparently Black people are hard to find in a 64% Black city. Like, apparently we don’t exist. Except when we litter the streets to be chalk-out lines.

This especially because it seemed LED Baltimore had no problem whatsoever broadcasting the ToD picture of Freddie Gray on this super big jumbotron of a billboard. Or crying Black people – preferably light skinned ones because when White folks say “Black Lives Matter”, they mainly mean “Ones who are light enough to not visually perturb us. Black lives might matter but Whiteness has diamond value. However, Black suffering definitely matters, though. Great cash cow.” This really annoyed me. Can’t put up a picture of a Black kid enjoying a frozen cup but a dead Black kid? Let’s slap that up there, certainly it’s dramatic photography because it’s what everyone, including the 64% Black population, wants to see.

Yeaaaaah, this is why White folks in activist circles (and outside of them) are constantly the poster kid of “What not to do.” That White Saviorism complex eventually comes popping out and ruining things. Great at causing problems for minorities but never really been that stellar in fixing said problems.

This is why I was not too happy seeing any White anyone in the protest crowd because that’s basically a glowing sign problems are about to occur. Baltimoreans just want the officers in the case, at the very least, indicted for some kind of wrong doing that most definitely did occur. White folks just want to live out what they saw on V for Vendetta last night and because they listened to too much Green Day and Rage Against the Machine (the one they’re pretty happy to be a part of). To feel like rebels because there’s nothing better else to do than sit on Facebook and pretend to be armchair political philosophers and strategists. Didn’t help that you had the Orioles game going so there’s more yuppies flowing into the mix, especially since they like yelling out, “Gun! He’s got a gun! Shoot! Officer, he’s got a gun!” because they think SNL-level humor is cute. Funny, these people weren’t saying the same during Sandy Hook. For the lolz, right? I mean, I could honestly create an endless barrage of jokes off of Sandy Hook alone, talk about an easy target, it would be such child’s play, almost as simple as picking on kids. I wonder why no one took that incident so light heartedly.

Are there really great White anti-racist activists who genuinely do care that the looooooooooong, long history of police brutality and harm to Black individuals (not Black bodies, Black individuals. A body is what you get after murder happens, not before. That would be an individual, a person) is atrocious and needs to stop? Sure but those 3-5 people need to do some actual work reigning in and policing the other White folks around them. Selflessly. Not to be the next Tim Wise, to be selfless out of genuine concern. I didn’t really see many White activists saying to the O’s fans, “Dude, that’s not cool.” Nah, they were fairly stuck on silent.  Or busy posting to Tumblr or Twitter about how they’re “good” White folks on “the right side of history”, probably to use later so when they get older and called out for being racist, they can say “Hey! I marched in the Black Lives Matter protests!” or when their kids get called out for being racist because, hey, blatantly unchecked bigotry is the gift that keeps on giving, they can say “Hey! My parent walked in the Black Lives Matter protests!” because history likes to repeat itself. Regularly.

Also, usually when Black Lives Matter stuff start hitting the news, here comes the Blue Lives Matter/All Lives Matter folks. I’d include the fact they’re usually White but I figured I was saying “White” twice. Look, I have friends who are cops, both White and Black,  (I even have a friend who joined the FBI!) and two uncles who are retired State Troopers but even they know there’s no point to saying Blue Lives Matter because officers aren’t getting picked off like NPCs in a First Person Shooter. More of the opposite. They’re know they’re safe. It actually alarms them how safe they are, that they can basically murder people, even on camera, and they’re most likely getting nothing but a paid vacation from it because of the usual chicanery of how police are, especially Baltimore police.

I remember when I had to help a battered neighbor and I took her straight to my officer friends (which goes up to Lieutenant) because I knew the cops in general were probably not going to do anything, which is precisely what happened (one cop of the duo, both Black, even said, “I don’t see injuries” despite swollen eye and busted nose. Even asked for a “before” selfie) until one of my friends, who is a Sargent started to pull rank and fast. Only then did things get moving and a dude threatening to kill everybody, including the kids, managed to get locked away until we’re on our 46th president and they’re up for (most likely denied) AARP since this isn’t the only thing on his rap sheet, just the newest addition.  If I didn’t use my network, this neighbor and her kids would have still been under the same dude or become homeless because they wanted to get away really badly since the cops called didn’t want to locking up someone who actually committed a crime but rather wanted to irk and harangue the victim because laziness. Even my Sgt. friend, who is White and was very on the mark, remarked “This is why we have the reputation that we do! That was shoddy police work.” He continued that of all the times in history to pull this, now would definitely not be it because he knew people didn’t trust police and giving them just cause for their distrust is not helping. Only thing Blue Lives need protecting from is their own reputation and that’s not going to happen until they do something to change it. That’s strictly on them. Officers aren’t dying at unprecedented rates, even despite having a dangerous job. That’s what they’re doing to others. And aren’t the only ones, at that.

As for the All Lives Matter people…we already know that it’s code for “White Lives Matter” because we’re already implying that all lives matter by saying “Black Lives Matter” because Black lives are part of the All but are really being cut short at comparatively drastic rates, unlike the rest of the All. Seriously, does the very idea of mentioning that Black people should be safe like everyone else that freakin bothersome that you have to mentally and verbally distance yourself from it by saying “All Lives Matter”? It’s really rude. And disrespectful.

Miles Jai explains this all perfectly:

Seriously, just say “Black Lives Matter” instead of “All Lives Matter”, you’ll look way less racist than you actually are.

As for the low to mid level destruction in my city – and I call it “low to mid” because while some cop cars got trashed and a few trashcans were lit, it wasn’t the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. Nor the MLK Riots of 1968 – I’m not surprised. Seriously. I lived in this city my whole entire life. I was raised in the hood, I’m not at all surprised that this turned out the way it did. As MLK* says, “Riots are the language of unheard” and talk about unheard people.

The news and the Mayor says the destruction was from out-of-towners. I don’t believe that for one second. Granted, the yuppies and White activists were definitely someone to beware given their track record** but a lot of the kids who were also being a problem came from my old neighborhood, Sandtown. I remember the Western Police District HQ, people would sell drugs on the steps (which, in turn, aided drastically to my PTSD because yeah, cops are pretty bad but drug dealers are practically evil the same way corporations are, they harm/kill anyone and everyone for business, they only “play” nice when convenient. Cops don’t haunt my nightmares, these folks do), the area is indeed a jacked up area. I think I have personally said the only way to fix that area was with a nuke and start again, it’s that bad. I lived there, I’m not crafting my ideas from watching The Wire and The Corner and youtube videos.

I’m not surprised they wanted to attack Orioles’ fans/Camden Yards. Those guys symbolize drastically the racial and class divide in Baltimore because mainly White folks, middle class and higher, go to O’s games. These O’s fans, they’re yuppies that are gentrifiers, they take up parts of the city without concern to others and treated like they’re royalty nearly. The folks who were trying to scream “Gun! Gun!” to the cops were O’s fans, they really don’t care about anyone and are really bigoted. The only time they like being around Black folks is if someone is there to clean out their trashcans and look after their kids. Then they go back to their pristine houses and pristine neighborhoods, wash, rinse, repeat. Baltimore has a long and extensive history of institutionalize racism and classism, we’re basically running on 1950’s era Jim Crow-lite. Even the Mayor and police head admitted to this recently. Because of all that, I’m not worried in the slightest about the safety of the O’s fans because why? They don’t care about us and actively show it, they shouldn’t expect an iota of concern back. The anger towards them is perfectly justified to me. Plus, it didn’t help that the police strongly defended the O’s fans and Camden Yards like it was a fort because basically it shows cops will protect White people with intense value but Black people? Not so much. And in a city that is 64% Black but 12% White, that’s going to piss off people more than just a little.

Not to mention, and O’s fans have a tendency to be destructive as well but none of them wind up dead at the end of it all despite being belligerent and drunkenly obnoxious.

Also, the news were talking to a lot of political leaders, NAACP folks and basically older heads who young people frankly do not care about. And when they’re not, when they say, “Look at peaceful protesters”, they pan to a White protester. When they refer to “violent protesters”, they pan to a Black protester, even if they’re trying to stop the mayhem. Which adds to the problem because uhhhh, upholding Whiteness is not a bright idea in trying to eradicate racism, because it’s the crux of racism.

Look, these kids know good and well that absolutely nothing is going to change. Even I know that. It’s just all political caterwauling to look in charge and/or to draft votes, preferably from White folks. These kids don’t see change, and I know from personal experience, these kids really don’t like being used as political chess pieces. They’re not that dumb. Police brutality has been a thing for decades, it’s cheap and insulting to pretend it’s just started.

The brutality component is kind of already woven into the concept of “what is an officer” when you’re young. Where I’m from, calling the police usually made a situation worse, not better. It’s simply part of How Things Are. If a cop gave you grief, it was like discovering a downpour on a day that was supposed to be sunny. Cops can be nice but you go out of your way to stay out of their way. Don’t like it? No one cares. Growing up, you know for fact that there’s no such thing as “unalienable rights” and “constitutional rights” are kind of super optional. Actually, I think there’s a running joke that if you told the cop you had rights and started to recite them, the likelihood of a cop beating would go from “probably” to “very certain” and it was just going to happen faster. I gleaned from growing up, you never tell a cop you have rights unless you’re either White or you want to find out how much they don’t apply if you’re not.

So, of course these kids are not going to care about destroying their own city. As far as they see, it’s just older people who don’t understand them or folks who look as if they’re pandering to White people, so it’s all just words. Simply hollow words. They know the Mayor doesn’t care. They know that nothing will change. It’s just a big political, media circus, a ruse. They know the cops are probably going to get off. They know that this isn’t going to stop future killings. They know that their area won’t get better until developers start pushing them out to move White people in. They know that this is the result so there’s no point but to take advantage of a situation where they can go wild and be destructive. They’re not concerned with the overall well-being of Baltimore residents, they just want to act out because that’s all they can do. Of the businesses and areas they attacked, some were obvious targets, such as the One Main Financial, Frank & Nics (the sports bar where O’s fans were taunting protesters), and Michael Kors store and knocked over a Smart Car, the mini electric car. They’re all signs of the “we don’t want you here” gentrification the kids used to getting. Even when I saw them pass the One Main Financial building, I knew that place was going to get some shattered glass, it’s too prime a target to pass up. You knew cop cars were going to get totaled, none of this had a low probability of happening.

Granted, when I saw the slew of people sitting in the bed of the dark pickup truck before the live feed cut out, I did say, “Man, please don’t start goonin’. This has been going good since 12 and it’s now 6, don’t start goonin.” Annnnnnnd what happened? Goonin’ occurred. Folks throwing grates and rocks at the police, attacking cop cars, etc. I shouldn’t be too surprised, I saw a couple Bloods gang members in the crowd, they’re not big on being peaceful, ever. Plus, a truck – a different dark truck – drove through a crowd of protesters and thankfully got chased down the street and hopefully got caught because that’s not cool. You don’t try to mow over protesters.

So, what is going to happen now? Not much, really. People are going to get their glass replaced, there are going to be more marches probably and nothing significant is going to happen. I’ve got nothing to be hopeful for, there’s no reason for me to believe that anything different is going to happen. Cops usually get off, people quiet down, White folks continue to pretend this is a brand new trend they have absolutely nothing to do with and is not rooted in racism, etc etc. Nothing really new.

* Nyuck nyuck, since White folks like to reference MLK like he was the only person in the Civil Rights Movement – but only in a hyper selective manner. And conveniently forgot that for someone so peaceful, he got shot by White folks as well. Through the throat. With a sniper bullet. As an enemy of the state.

** They only dislike police because cops are the higher level version of rebelling against their parents and don’t like getting busted for actually committing crimes such as using drugs or destroying property

A while back on Tumblr, I learned that there was an app that helped with dealing with the depression and moods. Granted, what made this one different was that it would slip into your life and point out when you are sad and most importantly, tell others that you’re in trouble if you start to show critical signs of depression or a suicidal nature. This app knows that depressed people tend to become very withdrawn and thus are not likely to reach out for help in their more critical moments, which creates a negative feedback loop that plummets the person further and further into a suicidal state because they take the silence towards their self isolation (that they didn’t tell anyone) as a sign that truly no one cares and that since no one is coming for them, they must truly be a burden and that maybe ending it all would simply be the smarter choice that benefits everyone. This app keys in to those moods and starts making efforts to reach out.

It was super hard to find this app for a range of reasons One, I didn’t know how to look for it besides, “Mental health app that checks in on you”. I didn’t know the name from the Tumblr post and I definitely couldn’t find it. I tried out a lot of apps while I still tried to find this one. None were nearly as good, because they either didn’t feel very helpful, didn’t ask good questions or simply did too little. They all could be ignored during a time of withdrawing since they strongly depend on the troubled person to have the will to say something. Convincing people to reach out when they truly don’t want to is not an easy task.

Finally, I managed to find the app I was looking for called “Mobilyze!” It uses the accelerometer to see if the person is inactive (such as laying in bed all day because they’re stricken with a depressive mode), the GPS to see if they are staying at home too much like a hermit and even the frequency of calls and texts to help figure out if the person is going through a depressive episode. Picking up on this, it will give suggestions such as calling people, meeting friends or simply going outside. The app identifies risk states and tries to counteract them. Here, David Mohr, Ph.D, creator of the idea, wrote that the point of Mobilyze has two goals: “One is to support patients with depression in making changes in behavior that will reduce or eliminate depressive symptoms. The other is to develop a system that learns to identify patients’ states at any given moment, allowing Mobilyze to reach out and intervene in real time. Essentially, we are trying to put a therapist in the patient’s pocket.”

Listen to him talk more about the app:

I really like the intervening part of the app because it understands how a depressed person thinks and the fact that they draw into themselves and that self-isolation means that they will not willingly make the effort to reach out for help. However, when trying to find more info about the app (as in, I tried to find it in the Android Market with no luck), I would hit dead end after dead end. I even tripped over the official information page at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Department of Preventive Medicine[link] where there is an inactive link but a great description of the app’s function: “Current methods of care do not permit intervention at ‘critical moments’ – moments when a behavioral prescription is most needed, and when an intervention is most likely to affect adherence to the behavioral prescription.” Turns out, the app was renamed “IntelliCare”, possibly because there is already a non-related app already called “Mobilyze” Mobilyze ran out of money but Intellicare is a similar version of it.

After looking around for it, I managed to find IntelliCare and now I can talk about it. For starters, it’s a hub that is a series of apps (all free) so you can pinpoint what would work best for you. I downloaded quite a few because a lot of the apps interested me…that and I wanted to review.

This isn't even all of them, there are a lot of choices, which means there's a lot of versatility for a variety of people. This is good.

This isn’t even all of them, there are a lot of choices, which means versatility.

Yes, this looks like a lot but given a lot of people suffer from depression in different ways, having a bunch of options is great. Plus it helps the app learn about you. However, it is a lot so this is what I did instead: made a folder!

This is a lot better because they're all in the same place, which brings some order and makes it feel like one app truly

This is a lot better because they’re all in the same place, which brings some order and makes it feel like one app truly

Remember, you don’t have to download them all, just what best pertains to you. Actually, the Hub will even recommend at least two of the apps to you after a few questions and it all connects to the server. I first tried out Social Force because I really wanted to have the social safety net since I withdraw heavily when depressed. I don’t tend to reach out when I have a problem or when I’m depressed at alllll. I also have a tendency to be really withdrawn and just get into sordid moods.

Since I have a lot of the apps, let me review one by one:

Intellicare Hub
This app is the center of all the apps, the one-stop shop. That eventually gets annoying. I would like to be able to go to the other apps via this one, that would be nifty given it already tells you that you have pending messages…about a million of them it feels like when you have more than the dedicated two – and even then, the pending messages get annoying because you may have already checked in earlier in the day or there isn’t an update available for you to download like it wants you to. You can’t swipe away the redundant messages either, you have to click on them and get sent to the Google Play page to make the message go away. It’s understanding that they don’t want to be so easy rid of because a depressed person needs to be involved but I really would like more informative messages and those messages be a bit fewer. Everyday, the app tells me to call someone, go somewhere (even if I am already out and about), things of that nature. It’s a pest that could convince the person to simply uninstall the app because it’s not slipping into your life, it’s sticking out in a way that can annoy when it gets too much. Also, I think it would be nice to have a daily (or adjustable) mood check in, similar to the Sleep Diary in Slumber Time. That way, it can be more than just a static hub but something active as a mood diary, kind of like Moodlytics. That way the rest of the apps can interact with the person since they’ll have a better key in on the person moods, even if they’re not entering them at all (which can imply withdrawing). Also, the little Andy the Android avatars are nice but why is Andy the Android, a green figure, White in some decorations? Either add more (read: Darker) skins so that everyone (including the populations the psych field is notorious for ignoring (read: Darker)) can feel included in the app. It’s really not that hard to have various flesh tones if you want to make Andy look more human. Little things like that can convince darker skinned folks that maybe this app isn’t for them or that the psych field yet again is putting up another “Not for you” sign. This app should want to avoid this because as far as underserved populations go, they do not want to screw over bigger ones, which are minority populations. And I still don’t know what the point system is about or how to gain more points. The avatar is a teeny feature but it’s the little things that are the most important.

ME Locate
I now know that Mobilyze! and Intellicare are two different apps. I think I would have liked to try Mobilyze more because ME Locate isn’t as good as I would like it to be. When starting the app, it always zooms into a My Place, not to where you are. Perhaps it is a passive suggestion of a spot to go but it could be better. Plus, zooming in to where I am initially, instead of a My Place, would be more intuitive if I wanted to quickly add a new My Place so I can check into it in the future. Also, I would like the app to be a lot more intuitive in picking up when I am out and about – basically, not home. The app is to convince you to go outside, it doesn’t need to pester you anymore to go outside if you’re already there. The app can determine via pinging from cell towers (as explained in the vid above), to decide “Ok, this person is out and about, I can take a break.” It should only start getting really persistent if the person has not been outside their home for a set period of time or they fall in too much of a “Go To Work, Go Home, Wash, Rinse, Repeat” zombie-like habit, which can happen to depressives who are still going outside but mainly to do the very, very basics, such as working. Especially if the person starts indicating that they are slipping deeper and deeper in depression via the mood diaries. (Seriously, mood diary would be great to personalize the experience). Maybe to keep the app from getting too dormant, maybe it could have a basic pedometer.

MoveMe
I haven’t used MoveMe much but I think it could really shine as a “get active” app. I wouldn’t mind if the app reminded me to take a brisk walk or do knee ups or simply stretch once a day or every other day. Now, the app doesn’t need to turn you into Terry Crews, Laila Ali or Choo Sunghoon but even the littlest things can help when going through depression. Heck, I’ve noticed on Tumblr when a “Hey! You! Did you get some water? Stretch your arms. Don’t forget to take your meds if you haven’t! Look at this stop light gif and breathe. Alright, you’re good to go” posts are really super helpful because they’re pleasant reminders that express care and are not invasive at all. MoveMe should strive for that in regards to saying, “Did you stretch today? Don’t know how? Here’s some suggestions”. Actually, MoveMe can also have a pedometer option (which can share info with ME Locate if the user wants it that way. It needs to improve its reminder system as well, make it similar to Daily Feats with a secondary reminder if ignored because the person is out and about.

Worry Knot
I haven’t used Worry Knot much but I know part of it is due to my first impressions where it annoyed me. The part I found annoying was kind of the assumption that all worries could be calmed down with pleasant woobly woobly feelings. However, its aim is to prevent “tangled”/obsessive thinking where you are caught in a worry cycle, which it can be a little helpful of but perhaps could be tweaked better. I would suggest others to try out the app for themselves and see how they like it. It could possibly do well to also acknowledge triggers and how they work because they cause worry as well but may need more care. It’s useful but can be better.

Thought Challenger
Another app I didn’t really like all that much. I think what turned me off from using the app as much is saying “What is your negative or unrealistic thought?” The only part that bugged me was “unrealistic” because here’s the thing about perspective, folks: What may seem like an unrealistic worry to everyone on the outside can seem like a very, very realistic worry to the person with the thought. They need to go with another word because it shouldn’t really automatically guess that the person knows their worry is unrealistic, seems pretty real to them. It would be better to just say “What is your negative thought?” There you go, the user knows what that is and it’s broad enough that many users will understand it successfully.

Aspire
I don’t use Aspire much. I think they should include a “Happy” path because I know many, especially folks in my generation, would appreciate a guide to that path. To just not be depressed or feel bogged down, to be happy. The app looks promising, however.

Daily Feats
This one is really good, not that invasive and you can set a reminder to put in your daily feats. You can edit the list as well as make feats of your own so you can personalize your progress. I have no complaints here, it’s really nice.

wpid-2015-04-08-12-17-22.pngwpid-2015-04-08-12-20-14.pngPurple Chill
For some reason, this makes me think of Prince somehow. I don’t know why but it does. Anywhoodle, I think I should get into this app more. It’s really has potential. It talks about deep breathing and techniques as well as how to’s. There’s even a breathing dot mediation that has a moving dot for you to follow as you learn deep breathing. The app will ask you how stressed you are now and proceed to tailor your experiences in relation to how frazzled you feel to maximize your use of the app. That’s not all, there is also learning how to practice mindfulness, muscle relaxations, mediations for sleep and more!

Slumber Time
This app keeps track of your sleeping habits and it’s pretty nifty for the most part. You fill out a sleep diary (which you can be reminded of, similar to Daily Feats) when you wake up but the best part is that for the app to track the noise, temperature and lighting in your environment, just flip the phone on its side, it’ll record everything, which can help you determine when you went to bed and to sleep. However, don’t use the alarm function, it is glitchy in that it will make the app shut itself off. Also, it would be nice if the app had a pinch zoom for the graph so it was easier to read, especially for those hard of seeing. That and straighten out the jumble of numbers at the bottom of the graph. Surely, they mean something but looking like a numerical error pattern, it’s looks incredibly glitchy, even if it is not. Maybe shade part of the graph to represent night and day. Also it would be wise to let people put in the times for the naps they take in opposed to whether or not they simply took them and for how long because it is a big difference if you took one power nap earlier in the day or at the end of the day and if you took a couple naps instead of just one.

wpid-2015-04-14-17-31-55.png

Social Force
This is what sold me on Mobilyze: the fact that if you became too depressed and the app knew it, it would intervene on your behalf and inform people that you really could use someone to talk to. This is important – crucial, even – for depressives because they withdraw from people and tend to take the fact no one is reaching out to them (because they didn’t know their friend was in peril. They could be just taking a social media break or something) as proof that no one cares about them and that they are truly a troublemaking burden that should just stop existing. Now, Social Force lets you build up a network that you can contact through the app itself. You can also pick and categorize friends by what kind of friend they are to you.

wpid-2015-04-08-12-03-15.png

The various colored circled show what kind of friend they are to you. Are they great for emotional support? Practical support? Somebody to hang out with? So on and so forth. Once you pick them out, they will show as circles on your Social Force screen so you can contact them for easy access.

wpid-2015-04-08-12-07-04.png

Of course, the graph will change as you interact more and more with people. However, if you don’t have anyone, that’s ok. There is a little how-to guide on how to meet people and develop positive support circles.

Now, I haven’t neglected the app enough or shown a strong enough depressive state to see if it will intervene on my behalf like Mobilyze would (if it doesn’t, it needs to be in there! That was the selling point for me!) but it does tell me nearly every day to call or text someone. If you’re already being social and out and about, I think they shouldn’t have to be so frequent. It’s annoying. There’s times it has popped up while I was talking to people right then and there. Maybe once or twice a week, especially if I’m showing a depressive mood, which then it should ramp up to maybe three or four times a week and intervene on one’s behalf if they reject the “Hey, you should contact [someone]!” at least three times. Especially if the person has ME Locate and it has determined that the person has not been out or just been doing the walking dead crawl (Home – Work – That’s it) so they need to be social to break the trend.

Now, ultimately, I think this app has a lot of promise, especially since Mobilyze sadly ran out of money (steam). I would recommend people to download the app and give it a try. There is a lot that I have not mentioned in this review because there is so much to the app, such as how it recommends apps based on your initial questionnaire and gives you a “how are you feeling” questionnaire once in a while. It’s free to use, actually has a lot to it and very beneficial.

What I like about the app is that the writing is not too technical. It understand that the average person using the app will not be some psychology expert but a normal person, it helps the app be less intimidating and easier to use. I didn’t like the description of “Magical Thinking” for when experiencing anxiety, however (I think this was in Thought Challenger or Worry Knot). It would have been better to call it “Assumptive Thinking” since it is indeed making assumptions which fuel worried thinking. I’m Pagan so of course I would find that reference odd.

Now, this is over but next week is Ask Black Witch! Send in your questions! Remember, good questions are appreciated, bad questions are eviscerated! Send them in!

What’s Up There?

I’ve been doing a lot (and getting triggered a lot in the process of doing stuff outside, not cool) and as of right now, I’m helping out a weapons shop so I get to sell cool stuff like these batarangs – that I’ll post as soon as I get out of from the Shogun MMA fight I’m helping out at. I’m posting from the WordPress app on my now, not-as-good-anymore tablet.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Woot, here it is!
image

However, I have noticed that in my busy day to day, people occasionally freak out about the Mercury Retrograde. And it is always the Mercury Retrograde. Always. Without proper reference or knowledge, a coming Mercury Retrograde sounds like a coming Armageddon for your date book: nothing will go right, everyone will be late, computers will act odd, your technology would freak out like Static Shock was having a temper tantrum. Ye gods.

And it is only Mercury. Never any other planet.

For starters, let’s talk about how and why a planet goes “Retrograde”, also identified under the shorthand “Rx”.  When a planet looks like it is going backwards in the sky (from earth’s perspective), it is considered going retrograde. The reality  is, the planet in question is just moving further away from the earth while in its natural orbit and therefore looks like it is going backwards in the sky.

Now, different planets have different energies and retrogrades affect that energy. It can either make the energy for the planet go reverse or awry. In the average astrology chart (natal chart), there are 9 planets to consider, all in concert with each other and all doing their own thing. Just because Mercury is in Rx, it doesn’t promise chaos and mayhem for three and a half weeks. Goodness, this is not even in consideration of whatever zodiac Mercury is in. Or what Mercury the person affected was born in. Or if there was any other planet in retrograde and what zodiac they were in. Or what aspects were interacting with the Mercury in Retrograde.

Thing is, while Mercury, the planet of communication, can definitely put a wrinkle in your interactions with its retrograde but it’s not a promising thunder, especially if it is already in a sign, aspect and/or house that weakens the effect of the retrograde. It can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, for certain, but by itself, it can not cause much damage. Phones don’t all of a sudden blinker off, computers don’t have insane amounts of misfiring of data. Is it something to ignore? Not entirely but if you don’t keep track of it (similar to myself), it won’t possibly cost you unless you have already shaky communication equipment. You know, the kind of equipment that will fizzle if you so much as think awkwardly about the device or computer. If so, then just simply be prepared. Have a decent external back up, access to cloud storage, things of that nature.

Besides, Mercury gets the most attention for a Retrograde but notice other planets don’t get a reference. Possibly because some planet retrogrades last months so it’s not easy to squawk and squeak about throughout new age communities. I mean, imagine if they were making simple image posts about Jupiter retrogrades. Those take up half a year and given how Jup retrogrades work, you only get roughly a three month break of a Jupiter Direct before it goes back to Retrograde. As the planet of money and expansion and luck, what is there to say? Be wary of money management for the majority of the year and expect bad luck and all forms of expanding your lot to shrink in size? That’s rather ridiculous. And what about whichever zodiac Jup provides in? How would that play a role?

Instead, it would be wiser to know that while the universe can play a role in human affairs, it is not the main and only driving force. Many emails get sent a day during Mercury Rx’s, the stock market doesn’t crash every time Jupiter goes Rx, people can still build careers during Saturn Rx. They are influencers, not creators.  Nothing is wrong with acknowledging the astro weather but try not to assume it is the end all, be all, do all, is all of how life will be until the particular planet in question returns to direct. The universe is far more complicated than that.

Coming up on The Arts!:

– Intellicare Review

My Peanut Allergy

Due to the fact that I have triggers thanks to C-PTSD mainly, I sometimes have to explain to others when those triggers get tripped. Problem is, it’s still 2015 America , mental illness is still widely stigmatized. Making the average person understand triggers is pretty tough because since it’s associated with mental illness, people’s brains start cramping up and giving out error codes, making them act super weird about those who have such conditions. Y’know, in a way that they don’t act when someone tells them they have a conditional physical aliment with a reactive element.

Like an allergy.

I have started to explain to people that having a trigger is like having a peanut allergy: It’s a reaction to something common and, based on exposure, it could be a small reaction or something worth hospitalization but it doesn’t define the person at all (even if it does get occasionally misunderstood by people). No one goes, “Dude, you have a peanut allergy? How do I know you won’t just up and die on me? What if you eat the wrong kind of M&M or have a piece of caramel, not knowing it was from a peanut brittle? I read that people who have it can’t even eat at restaurants because of possible cross contamination…. Can I see you eat a Reses Pieces? It’s mind over matter, man. I’m here for you.”

No one treats a person with a common allergy like a peanut allergy as if they are stricken with a horrible malady. It’s a simple peanut allergy, not rabies or Black Death. Yes, if the person has slight cross contamination (yes, I know it’s different for different people but stick with me) they may encounter symptoms of exposure but it’s not a promise to be life threatening, especially if they take something for the accidental exposure. If they mistakenly eat something related to peanut, like eat foods fried in peanut oil, have peanut butter-centered candies or anything like that, then yes, they’re probably going to need to check into a hospital before having to upgrade to a priest. Does this mean the person can’t be trusted doing simple things like going to the grocery store or dealing with work? No. Are they sick? Not really. They just have a condition that stays pretty invisible when not triggered. For a peanut allergy, the trigger is the peanut. Something so common that everyone knows that the peanut itself isn’t to blame nor is harmful in and of itself but understands that still, the allergic person can’t have it all the same.

What does this mean for the allergic person? Well, they can lead pretty normal lives with only real miniscule changes. For example, they have to check the back of snack wrappers to see if there’s a “Caution: May Contain Peanuts” or “Caution: Processed in the Same Facility As Peanut Products” warning on the back. That’s not odd at all, they can even do it while food shopping with friends, no one will shift uneasily about it. Probably not even give it a second thought, it’s just their friend checking the food for their own health, not a big deal. When they eat in restaurants, they may have to ask what oil the fried food was made in to ensure it’s not peanut oil. Granted, it will probably earn the person sneers as a health nut or some pretentious yuppie trying to throw their weight around but no one is going to consider the moment memorable or defining of the person’s whole entire life from that one moment.

Basically, like an allergy, a trigger can be no big deal, it just depends on how you handle it. A person could freak out about knowing that someone can’t have a Snickers because oh wow, it’s not everyday to learn someone can be easily felled when approached with a pack of airport peanuts. Same thing with a trigger. Just because someone has a psychological trigger, it doesn’t mean they’re broken people, it just means they have a condition that needs some care but besides that, they’re a perfectly normal person.

In using this, I’ve noticed how receptive people are to using the “think of it like a peanut allergy” allusion. They relax now that they understand how a trigger works with allergies as a frame of reference. When people see a psychological trigger in the same vein as an allergy, they become less fretful and act more normal. Even the questions about the triggers become more normal, more similar to what a person would ask if they discovered someone had an allergy. They wouldn’t act as if they need a whole briefing on the condition or anything, just that it’s there and something their friend has to be aware about. No one who mentions that they have a peanut allergy has to answer questions or explain when they first discovered that they were allergic to peanuts and how bad it was and have they ever had to be hospitalized for it and for how long. No real prying questions. And if they did get prying questions, it would be the asker and not the person asked that would get the odd looks for the questions, as if to say, “Why are you asking so many questions about the fact they can’t have a Babe Ruth? Are you their doctor? They can’t have peanuts, why is it such a big deal?”

It’s a lot better when people don’t freak out about mental illness, it makes it easier to treat and manage, even cure sometimes. It’s the removal of an unnecessary stress, meaning the source of the problem can be dealt with without the unnecessary nonsense that comes with people acting out their stigmas about mental health, regardless of whether they know it or not.

So, the month focusing on a special subject went down in flames. No writer submissions, I missed my publish dates as well, nothing really went well. That’s not cool. I’ll probably do it again next year, with better preparations.

Instead, I’m just going to direct your attention to a recent interview I just did from ACTION Mag. It was actually a good experience, I recommend reading it.

I’ll also post this call for diverse writers for an upcoming Pagan publication. I was one of the (incredibly) few asked and I said that I wasn’t going to write unless there were at least 6 minority Pagan writers, at least three of them Black. The anthology curator didn’t even bother to ask four in total. Meaning the anthology is geared to becoming nearly all White with some measly token thrown in as if it is just as good as actual diversity. Here are the submission guidelines.  You can also email tara.miller21[at]gmail.com.

Since normal content resumes in April, which is soon, just watch this short film, titled “Cupidon”. It’s about a day in the life of Cupid as he does his job, but makes a mistake with his arrows that turned one person in a potential couple into a total megalomaniac as he tried to make a match.

It’s March, which means it’s month-long series time! This year, we’re focusing on technology! This month will feature guest writings and focus mainly on this dedicated subject. Normal postings will resume in April.

Let’s talk phones and developing … actually, there’s a million think-pieces on developing, let’s talk about rooting (this is mainly for android devices because Android is very developer friendly … and I use it extensively) and building computers. Both are fun things to do, you can truly let your creativity flow with these and it’s not as difficult as one would like to think.

Since I’ve been working with modding mobile devices, let’s start there and do computers another time. Recently, I changed my phone’s low battery beep from the annoying sound to saying “밥주세요/Bap Joo Sae Yo” in a shouting, cute voice, much like how the phones do in Korea (currently learning the language). Changing the low battery sound is not the same as merely changing the ringtone for phone calls or text messages because the sound is hardcoded into the system. Hardcoded means that the file is programmed as part of the internal system, in opposed to the term “softcoded”, which basically means that the file can be changed by the user for whatever reason. Softcoding allows users to change their text and phone ringtone. Hardcoding is supposed to maintain system regularity, including audio and visual indicators. It isn’t that phone makers think that too much customizing is a bad thing, it’s just that you can’t softcode every little thing because it could affect the root of the system and make everything run awry. And who wants to work in a call center dealing with angry callers because they downloaded a bad file and now their battery gauge system doesn’t work? Or now, somehow a virus got into the root system through the bad file and the whole phone is messed up.

To avoid being super baffling with lingo and techie jargon, I’ll focus on just rooting basics. Something simple as changing the low battery beep on your smartphone/tablet.

Before anything, we ready your sound. Smartphones nowadays like .ogg files so .wav and .mp3 files simply just won’t do. The file extension .ogg is an open format part of OGG Vorbis. Read more about it here and here to understand its background but it isn’t a must enable to complete this goal. Just know that you need an .ogg file.  That means you’ll have to convert it.

It can be any sound clip, just keep it short because it wouldn’t make sense for the phone to play a whole song or an album stream just to inform you that you need to put in your charger. As long as it can translate into an .ogg file (use this site) you’re golden.

After you make your file, keep it somewhere safe on your computer to later transport onto your mobile device’s local folder (like in the media>audio folder). Now we have to work on rooting the phone.

This part require individual research because there isn’t a catch-all rooting program or unlocking bootloader program, both things you can do yourself. To find out what model you have, go into the Settings>About Device and from there, you should see what your model number is.

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Research to see if there is need for a bootloader to be unlocked because not all phones have locked bootloaders. A bootloader is OS booting up/starting up program. It loads all the files in your phone much like your computer does. If it is locked, it means that it is like a door to a multiplex building, it’s not meant to be opened. Here’s info about bootloaders both here and here so you can read more about them. Locked bootloaders also can be so to keep a particular phone to one network like AT&T or Verizon. Different phone companies have different histories about their bootloaders such as Motorola and Samsung. Unlocked bootloader phones – unlocked phones, basically – are friendlier to developers because of easier access for them, the devs.

You can unlock Dev options by going into About Device and hitting the back button 7 times in quick succession. There should be a little pop up stating “You are [#] times away from being a developer”. After you finally press the back button singularly, you should see a new selection called “Developer Options”. Tap on it and be sure to check “USB Debugging”. This will keep things running smoothly.

Alright, I’m sure that you should have guessed but make sure you have all your phone or tablet backed up. Since you’re messing with your phone/tablet’s internal system, that means you could lose everything on your device. It would be pretty bad if you didn’t plan ahead and lost everything as a result. Also, this would be the time to say that by performing this work on your phone or tablet, you’re most likely voiding your warranty. This means that if you have any future problems with your phone, you’re on your own. A potentially bad thing that could happen is that you could brick your phone/tablet. When a device is bricked, basically that means you’ve turned your smartphone into a paperweight that can beep, blink and glow. It will be perfectly useless. Thaaaaaat’s not good. There’s also potentially soft bricking your phone/tablet, which means there are some parts of it that can’t be used and its abilities will be drastically and most noticeably reduced. So you’ll have a partially active paperweight.  Don’t want that either so make sure you research exactly what to do and where to go. I highly recommend hanging out on XDA Developers particularly and Phandroid to figure out if your device has a locked bootloader or not with a quick search.

There are different rooting programs but Kingo Root is highly suggested so let’s go with them and they cover a wide range of devices. If Kingo Root does not have your device, make sure you can find another that does. Remember, rooting is free, if you have to pay, turn away. And it is best to use a rooting system that involves a connected computer so if anything goes wrong, the necessary information to discover what happened won’t go down with the rest of the ship.

Alright, with Kingo Root (or whatever program you decided to go with) make sure you go by exactly what they say, letter for letter. Rooting has gotten much simpler nowadays, it’s relatively easier and a good start for those that want to try their hands at being a dev. because it’s baby steps. Remember to grant access to your program so everything can run smoothly. If you have a Samsung device, like me, you may have to deal with Knox, the security system. Don’t have it disabled, your phone/tablet will work fine.

After you have rooted and rebooted your phone as well as put the desired sound file somewhere easy to find on your phone, this means you have to download a root browser onto your phone/tablet. I like Root Browser, which is really good. Now you’re able to go into the internal system and change some things!

You’re going to see two “System” folders. You want the one that has the computer monitor in front of it. This is where you want to go. From there, here is the pathway: System/Media/Audio/UI. In the UI file, you’ll find the LowBattery.ogg file. You can even listen to it with your phone/tablet’s music player to confirm it. Wild, huh?

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Now that you have found your low battery sound, find your new low battery sound – don’t forget to write down the exact name of the low battery sound file so the system can effortlessly find the new file and execute it without a hitch because the system is programmed to look for a file with that exact name for the exact purpose of beeping when the phone/tablet’s battery is low. This is so when you copy the file (don’t move, just copy or you’ll get an error) to the UI folder, you can rename the file to the correct name.  Once you do that, delete the old Low Batt file. This will force the system to use the file you provided. Also, you will have to change the permissions to match the other permissions in the file. To do that, long press on your new Low Battery file, which will bring up the list. Go to Permissions, which is signified with an opened silver lock.

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See how I have it? And how the outcome at the bottom looks like everyone else in the file list? Copy it. You’ll see the letters change at the bottom as you modify. Remember, RWX is Read, Write, Execute. See the relation between the dashes and the empty spaces? They correlate. Here is a good write up on how permissions work. If the permissions are wrong, the sound file won’t play at all and you’ll just have the phone merely do everything else normal in notifying you of a low battery but with no sound at all.

Now exit everything and reboot the phone. Everything should be complete. Time to wait for your battery to run out and there, you should hear a brand new sound.

Congrats, you just reprogrammed your phone more to your liking.

You can do more research on what you can do with a rooted phone, XDA Developers is fantastic for learning new tips and tricks.

Ask Black Witch: Free Space

So I didn’t get any questions this month (you guys do know that you can send in questions at any given time, right?) so that gives me free space to do whateeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever I want.

Whateeeeeever I want

Whateeeeeever I want

I think I’ll start with P.O.S. “Weird Friends”, I like the song.

And here are two young schoolgirl traceuse playing Ninja. Parkour is always a great thing.


And as for sending messages, please send something more than just “Help me” or “I need your help.” This isn’t a sitcom or a tv drama, it’s real life. You actually do have to tell me something in regards to your problem. I’m not going to divine and guess what is going on. I don’t care enough for random people problems, especially unspoken ones.

Also, I spotted this on Tumblr, this sums up why I never do spellwork for others.

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This is something every witch, high magician, occultist, etc goes through. And this is why I tell people not to dabble.

Next month will be the BW yearly series! This time, we’re focusing on technology! This new series will be called “Byte It/Cut It/Save It/Technologic”. That means there will be guest writers and normal posting will resume in April.

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